Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema, creator of both goals, celebrates with the scorer of the first, Jeremy Menez. Reuters

A match that began with a deluge from the heavens ended with an onslaught from France as they produced a classy performance to beat Ukraine 2-0 in Donetsk.

As the teams walked out at the Donbass Arena the sky opened up to bring forth blistering rain, which, when followed by lightning, led to the players being taken off after less than five minutes of action. Following the best part of an hour off the pitch, play resumed with an engaging contest that France finally wrestled control of with two second-half goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye.

France's attacking quality shinned through as they survived another encouraging showing from the co-hosts to put themselves in a strong position to make the quarter-finals.

As play got underway, France made the most of the slick surface to aid the quick interchange of passes between their front four. With Menez brought into the team at the expense of Florent Malouda, Laurent Blanc's side's attack looked even more fluid as they posed Ukraine ample problems from the outset.

Their quick passing and movement almost paid dividends as Franck Ribery exchanged possession on the left before roaming inside and slipping in Menez, but though the Paris Saint-Germain man tucked the ball home, he was comfortably offside.

Spurred on by a home support that had been anything but silenced by the rain, Ukraine was far from merely hanging on, though. When they did win the ball back, Oleg Blokhin's side countered with plenty of pace and purpose.

Key to their play was the duo down the right of Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleg Gusev. With the full-back providing a constant threat down the outside, Yarmolenko was given license to come inside on his stronger left foot. A tactic that led to him deceiving Clichy on the edge of the box before getting in a shot that dragged wide of the near post.

The chances only got better as the half progressed. One of Ukraine's older heads almost caused their downfall as Anatoliy Tymoshchuk played a slack pass back to his defense that Ribery was able to latch onto with ease. Bursting down the left, he produced a low ball into the box that went behind Benzema but was perfect for Menez coming in at back post to strike, but Pyatov made a fine point-blank save to keep the scores level.

After his two-goal performance against Sweden, Shevchenko was looking dangerous again, encouraged by the roar from the crowd that accompanied his every touch. The 35-year-old came close to getting on the score sheet once more as he spun off Adil Rami to race onto a ball over the top and hit a fierce drive that forced Hugo Lloris into a fine save at his near post.

More was to follow with Phillipe Mexes. This time the A.C. Milan man was denied by some exceptional goalkeeping as Pyatov dove across to turn the ball away one-handed from the defender's header off of a Nasri free-kick.

And the action showed no signs of relenting as the second half got underway.

Menez collected a through ball before out-muscling a defender to get a shot in on target that Pyatov blocked with his legs. Immediately Ukraine surged up the other end and displaying the magic of old, Shevchenko got the better of Rami outside the box before creating a shooting opportunity on his right foot, but a fine curling effort narrowly missed the target.

And then the breakthrough finally arrived.

France worked the ball across the box, as Ribery knocked it square to Benzema who in turn found Menez coming forward down the right and the wide man fully justified his place in the team as he cut inside the defender before hitting a low drive that finally beat Pyatov at his near post.

Blanc's side fully capitalized on the breakthrough as they took advantage of some lapse Ukrainian defending to get a crucial second goal just minutes later.

Benzema fed a ball into the area that should never have reached its target, but Taras Mikhalik's failed interception and the ball subsequently running under Gusev's feet enabled Cabaye to gather the ball and clinically fire a low shot across Pyatov to find the back of the net.

After playing a full part in an engaging encounter for close to an hour, Ukraine was now understandably shell-shocked.

Trying desperately to prevent France's probing on the edge of the box resulting in a third goal, Ukraine managed to get in a challenge that only diverted the ball to Cabaye. The Newcastle midfielder struck the bouncing ball with exemplary technique that left Pyatov merely as a spectator as the effort cannoned back off the post.

But the damage had been done and by the end France were cruising to the three points. Though Ukraine came close to exposing the weaknesses that persist in the other areas of this French team, going forward there are few sides in these European Championships that can match the quality of Les Bleus.

Ukraine vs France 0-2 All goals & Highlights...

by kofiswag